It Strategy


This course uses Case Series to examine important issues in IT management through the eyes of Jim Barton, a talented business (i. e. , non-technical) manager who is thrust into the Chief Information Officer (CIO) role at a troubled financial services firm. The course follows Barton through challenges, mistakes, travails, and triumphs. We take this journey with him, commenting on and debating his choices and decisions. During his first year as CIO, Barton confronts issues related to skill and talent management; IT costs, budgets, value, and chargeback systems; priority setting and financial justification of IT investments; project management; runaway projects and underperforming vendors; security risks and crises; Web 2. 0 policies; communications with other senior executives; vendor management; infrastructure standardization; support for innovation; and risk management. As Barton encounters these issues, we address them too, through associated readings.

As we examine and critique both research and conventional management wisdom on these topics, we’ll derive a framework for managing IT as a business leader. Course Book The main text for this course is the book “Adventures of an IT Leader”, also called IVK after the company in the book. Adventures of an IT Leader. At this site, you will need to use a credit card to purchase copyrighted materials, which you will then download in PDFs and be able to print as is convenient. Please be sure to use this link, not the main HBSP website, so that you get the discount associated with the course. Course blog The course blog is the official source of information, where updates, session presentations, etc. ill be posted.

Questions (think about and discuss with others before class): Consider the exhibits at the end of IVK-1; what do they tell you about the IVK Corporation’s business situation? Why has this company replaced its CEO?

If you were Jim Barton, would you accept the CIO job offered by the new CEO? If he accepts, what should be his plan of action? What should he do first? Second? What would be your best single piece of advice to Barton if he decides to take the job? What should he watch out for? Where should he be careful?

Session 1:  “You need to know what you don’t know? ”

Davies predicts that Barton will be gone in a year; why does he say this? Do Maggie’s notes (exhibit at end of IVK-2) shed any light on Davies’ assertion? What should be Barton’s plan for reaching out to other CIOs and industry experts to gain expertise quickly about running an IT department? Whom should he talk to first? Do you agree with Ruben that IT is a “unique” business function, that is different from other departments in the organization? What did Barton learn from his trip to the bookstore and subsequent night of studying?

Session 2: The Value of IT (Thursday, February 14, 12:00 to 16:00, ScrollBar). Zara: IT for Fast Fashion” Assignment.

Questions: How would you advise Salgado to proceed on the issue of upgrading the POS terminals? Should he upgrade to a modern operating system? Should the POS applications be rewritten to include any additional functionality? If so, what functionality? What benefits does Inditex/Zara get from its IT infrastructure? How difficult would it be for a competitor to acquire these same benefits? IVK Assignment. What is the “right” amount for a company to invest in IT? How should Jim Barton respond to the CEO when he asks: “What is the ‘right’ amount for IVK to spend on IT? ’ What is the purpose of a “chargeback” system for returning IT costs to business units? Why implement such a system? As we learn in IVK-4, at IVK business units control all of the IT budgets; what do you think of this arrangement? Should Barton try to “pull back” some of the budgets that are allocated to business units, to create his own discretionary budget? How does IT create or enable the creation of value within a company? How should we value IT capabilities required to keep us in business, but that does not differentiate us from competitors (so-called “qualifiers” in the discussion in IVK-5)?

Session 3: Cisco Systems Assignment Questions: Cisco was highly successful with its enterprise resource planning (ERP) effort. What accounts for this success? What were the most important things that Cisco did correctly? Did Cisco do anything wrong on this project? If so, what? Was Cisco smart or lucky with its ERP implementation? IVK Assignment Questions: Which side would you take in the debate between Henderson and Calder? What do you think of the approach that Davies seems to have used (judging from documents found by Barton) to managing uncertainty in projects? What should Barton do to get the IR initiative back on track? Should he fire NetiFects? How do you manage project problems you cannot anticipate?

Session 4: Volkswagen of America Assignment

Questions: What is your assessment of the new process for managing priorities at Volkswagen? Are the criticisms justified? Is it an improvement over the old process? Who controls the budgets from which IT projects are funded at Volkswagen of America? Who should control these budgets? How should Matulovic respond to his fellow executives who are calling to ask him for special treatment outside the new priority management system? IVK Assignment Questions: Should Barton try to take control of the entire IT budget? Should he ask for a percentage of the overall budget to be placed under his control? How did the Hydraq Trojan operate? Could it be a potential threat to IVK? What is your assessment of how IVK handled the crisis during the event itself? Did they do a good job of crisis management? How would you recommend that Barton handle the analyst meeting? If you were on the team coming up with the strategy for the meeting, what guidelines would you suggest to Barton?

Session 5: Communication. To be distributed. IVK Assignment Questions: Which option for securing IVK in the aftermath of the attack would you choose? Would you recommend shutting the company down? If so, when? Do you agree with the CEO’s decision about what to disclose about this possible hacker attack? How should Barton handle the CEO’s new tendency to offer him helpful but misinformed advice? How should Barton communicate with people outside the IT department to rebuild his and his department’s credibility? How frequently should he communicate with the CEO? With his peers? Should he rely on “The Doctrine of Completed Staff Work” as he formulates a communication strategy?

Session 6: “Organizational self-renewal: The role of IS in developing organizational eco-effectiveness” by Hedman, Henningsson & Selander. 2012. To be distributed in class. Green IT TBD. IVK Assignment Questions: How would you respond to Bernie Ruben’s three questions concerning possible action on the blog issue? What technology can IVK use to improve the business? Which vendor should IVK choose for the IR project? Which approach to an SLA? Service delivery model? How much technical expertise does a company like IVK need to keep in house if it plans to outsource much of it’s IT work? How can it retain expertise when most of the interesting work is being done by vendors? What information should a company like IVK ask for in a “Request for Proposal” (RFP) document? What questions should they ask a vendor to answer? Should the IR project implementation be “fixed price” or another sort of contract? Which approach should IVK take to infrastructure standardization? Are IT standardization and innovation (or flexibility) in the conflict in an organization like IVK? How do you interpret the kid’s story about the great man who went missing? Session 10: Managing Talent (Thursday, April 11, 12:00 to 16:00, ScrollBar). What should Carter and Barton do about the Ivan Korsky situation? Should Barton seek a technological way of monitoring what his employees are doing? Why or why not? Should IVK have a management system for identifying its top value people assets? If so, how might such a system work? How would it interact with training and skills development? Should Barton reorganize the IT function so that the best talent is in a central “shared services” organization available to the entire organization (rather than just a particular business unit)? What are the pluses and minuses of such an arrangement? What might Barton be able to learn from the way jazz ensembles work about how to manage top-notch IT talent?

Session 7: IT Risk Management

Questions: What do you think of CEO Williams’s explanation of his actions in the aftermath of the crisis described in IVK-10? How should a company like IVK approach its cost and risk tradeoffs? What caused the network outage at CareGroup? Consider the lessons learned that Halamka enumerates at the end of this case—are these the right lessons? Has he missed any?

Session 8: Mini-project presentations. Mini-project presentations.

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